By Polly Keary
In addition to practicing as a primary care doctor in the new Evergreen Primary Care facility that opened last week in the Sky River Medical Center next to Valley General Hospital, Dr. John Patz has taken over as medical director of VGH’s Recovery Center.
And he and Program Manager David Anderson are bringing a detox back to the facility.
The center has offered detox, a medically supervised withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, in the past. But that service had been discontinued.
And that meant there were a lot of people seeking treatment that the Recovery Center couldn’t help.
“We turn away people seeking residential treatment because we don’t offer detox,” said Patz.
People seeking help with addiction come to the serene, sky-lit building across 179th from the hospital to stay for two or three weeks while getting therapy and medical help.
But many people want to go somewhere they can go through the initial detox stages of a serious addiction, then get follow-up care in an inpatient environment.
So the Recovery Center has applied for an on-site detox in order to accommodate them.
But that’s not the only way Patz hopes to strengthen the offerings of the Recovery Center.
“I’ve been looking for an opportunity to expand my interest in substance use disorder,” he said. “I’m attracted to my current employment arrangement because of the willingness of Evergreen and Valley General Hospital to improve medical care to people with substance use disorder.”
Opiate use has become quite prevalent, he said, and treating addiction to heroin or Oxycontin can be really difficult. He has had success treating it with the medication Suboxone, and hopes to see the Recovery Center become a “center of excellence” for Suboxone treatment.
And both Anderson and Patz want the Recovery Center to be a place that combines both top-flight medical care and addiction treatment.
“Because of our affiliation with Valley General, we hope to provide a higher level of medical care than other freestanding treatment centers,” said Patz.
When Evergreen affiliated with Valley General Hospital, one of the things the two organizations hoped to do was offer complimentary services, instead of duplicating services.
Prior to the affiliation, Evergreen didn’t have a chemical dependency unit, and it will benefit from the arrangement.
The Recovery Center is actually a profitable part of Valley General, as it only takes those with insurance or private payers.
The reward of the work is personal to Patz, who started specializing in substance use disorder in 2003.
“The gratitude that I feel coming back from people who we help is as big or bigger as any I’ve experienced in any other field I’ve worked in,” he said. “The cool thing is that persons suffering from their active addiction are some of the most challenging people we meet in emergency rooms and hospital beds, but if you help them to recovery, they become some of the most gratifying.”
So far, the Recovery Center has gone from treating an average of 16 patients per day to about 25, and Anderson hopes to see that number rise to about 32.
Seeing people rise from the bottom rungs of society to being productive members of that society is very meaningful to Patz .
“It’s important that people realize that people do come back, and to provide them an avenue by which to come back,” he said.